Formal classroom learning has become a standard in American education. In the past, students often even feared their professors, but today, there is debate around shaping the best learning environments to promote engagement and discussion between both students and teachers. Brooks finds that “While the physical differences in the classrooms are associated significantly with differences in student levels of on-task behavior, these differences do not appear to occur in the manner expected. That students in the traditional classroom were observed to be significantly more frequently and consistently engaged with classroom tasks than students in the ALC runs counter to evidence regarding students’ attention spans in traditional environments and to the spirit and intent of the ALC, a space designed to promote engagement via flexible pedagogical approaches.” Dr. Brooks’s experiment, was conducted to explore the effects of learning environments on teacher and student behavior, and while there were statistically significant results, the presentation of conclusions is deemed very inconclusive. His article, “Space and consequences: The impact of different formal learning spaces on instructor and student behavior,” explores the correlations between four different categories of classroom activity and instructor behavior, and two different modes of informations delivery.
The data is presented as if attached to grave disappointment – it’s seemingly a failure of an experiment to find a negative correlation between engagement and non-traditional learning environments. Brooks adds many caveats and numerical explanations as to why and how the data is the way it is. This muddies the conclusion for readers – are these alternative styles effective or not? Even after sifting through the data, there seems to be no concrete response. Statistically, there are negative correlations between focus and the ALC, but logistically, Brooks still seems to lean “no.” Despite “robust data,” Brooks states that “the evidence presented here is based on a single course taught by the same instructor in one semester.” Therefore, more trials must be done to avoid linkage due to “characteristics of individual instructors.” Although this conclusion may be difficult to support, the assertion that the data’s “validity is under scrutiny” cannot be the sole reason for illegitimacy (Brooks). Thus, the argument presentation is shaky at best.
Although this kind of experimentation can be highly subjective, the overall outcome still remains if the research and data were collected in accordance with the scientific method. As previously stated in Brooks’ research, this seems to be true: “The course observation data was collected from randomly select
ed, unannounced class periods in 13 of 28 (46.4%) of the meetings of the traditional classroom section and 14 of 28 (50.0%) of the instances of the ALC section” (Brooks). The “variables: classroom activities, content delivery modes, instructor behavior, and student behavior” were eventually sorted into a chart, however, it draws no direct comparisons. Additionally, there is little acknowledgement of alternative settings compared to the layouts used. Potential clarification could be accomplished by limiting variables and employing clearer rhetoric, however, likely exposing the most raw outcome of the data and its conclusions.
Brooks, D. Christopher. “Space and consequences: The impact of different formal learning spaces on instructor and student behavior.” Journal of Learning Spaces [Online], 1.2 (2012): n. pag. Web. 31 Oct. 2016
Walker, J.D. et al. “Pedagogy and Space: Empirical Research on New Learning Environments.” Home, Educause, 15 Dec. 2011, http://er.educause.edu/articles/2011/12/pedagogy-and-space-empirical-research-on-new-learning-environments.